Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Matter of Life and Death

Email to a friend:

Hi Susan,

Are you in Colorado?  Happy New Year.  Hope the snow is fresh and the crowds are reasonable.   Just wanted to update you on my whacky life.  So last Friday (a week ago), Maizie had a seizure, which I wrote you about. Then the second one the following day which was 12/24, again complete with eye-rolling, collapsing, peeing, and getting up a couple of minutes later and looking around like, “Huh? What? Where’d this puddle come from and why is my backside wet?  Shit. I hope Mommy doesn’t yell at me for this.”

Craig was ready to put her down that day, and if Dr. Dan (the new vet that my nephew works for) had been in, we would have.  But he wasn’t, and we made the appointment for Thursday, as that was the first early morning one we could get, and Craig wanted to go to work afterwards (and not go home and brood).  But Sunday morning, when he took her out, she was all “jaunty” and continuing to want to kill her frenemies, and to want affection, and to get all excited around meal time, and signal to go out to troll, etc.  By Monday, Craig was having doubts.

I just couldn’t take it.  At that point, I still wanted to kill my dog.  I was thinking of my Dad, after his cancer returned and he kept talking about how he just wished a piano would fall on his head.  I was thinking about Craig’s cat, Big Red, and how he waited too long, didn’t even notice how much weight he was losing because he saw him everyday, and finally Craig was supposed to travel for work and I was going to take care of Big Red, but when I went over a few days before Craig left,  I realized he was dying and  we had to put him down sooner.   I was thinking about Maizie’s inevitable decline, and the stoicism of dogs, and how we should just get off this emotional roller coaster, and how it would be me, working from home, more likely to see the next seizure, more likely to be the one taking her in when she finally couldn’t get back up on her hind legs, carrying her to the car.

Craig thought it was my being obsessive, and it was Italy, our planned anniversary trip, coming up in two weeks — the first time we’d be in Europe together, and to a country neither of us had visited.    Maybe something to that, because we both agreed that if we didn’t put her down, leaving her in a kennel for 10 days, even a nice one, was probably not a good idea.

On Tuesday, we went out to dinner with the cousins.  They aren’t fans of the Maize, having a bad impression based on an unfortunate dinner incident.  But Daniel (the smartest man in any room) brought up the seizure thing. Did Craig really want to wait for the third seizure?  The answer was no, but….

The next day, Craig  checked with the airline.  No refund, of course, but $200 to change the dates.  My sister happened to call and I updated her.  I reminded her of my father’s piano line.  She didn’t think it was that simple.  She pointed out how much he’d held on at the end.

“Nobody wants to die,” she said.

She reminded me that even my mother, who was unconscious those last few days, seemed on some level, not willing to let go, although she had said earlier, after her stroke but before she faded away when the subject of a feeding tube was broached, “If I can’t eat ice-cream, what’s the point?”

But Maizie, based on what I was telling her, hadn’t reached that point yet.  And I realized she was right.

Craig cancelled the appointment.  We were still figuring out Italy. We rationalized that before the seizures we’d been planned to board her, and what had really changed?  Yes, she might take a turn while we were away, and we’d feel terrible, but more likely it would be a slow decline, another seizure maybe, maybe two, but not a crisis.

We wouldn’t leave her at the place we usually left her.  They’d screwed up last time, not monitoring her closely or contacting us when she seemed to be reacting badly to the meds she was then on for her Cushing’s.  There was another place we’d taken her a couple of times, swankier, more expensive, less convenient to get to.  We thought we’d try there, but also see if my nephew would consider dog sitting.  He couldn’t.  His workshifts are too long and she’d be alone too much.  My sister had mentioned a son of a friend’s, a musician in need of a day job, raised in an animal loving household as a possibility, but Craig thought given Maizie’s special “behavioral” issues, a stranger who wasn’t a professional might not be a good idea. We called the swanky place.  Before I’d had a chance to explain much, they reacted to the words, “Geriatric” and “frail” and told me straight out that a dog in that condition should never be boarded.

That hit us like a gut-punch.  Not only were we terrible human beings for considering killing our dog, we were terrible human beings for wanting to go away.

We wondered what would happen if there were an emergency and we’d both have to travel.  Or what if Craig got one of those good business gigs to Africa and I could join him after?  The answer to the first case, was we’d leave her at the vets, for as short  a time as possible.  In the second case, I’d stay home

Today, Craig reported Maizie seemed a little out of it on their walk.  She’s sleeping now.  She sleeps mostly.  Italy is probably off the table for a while, unless she takes a turn for the worst in the next few days.  We might ask the musician if he’s interested in the gig, not for Italy, but generally, if she lives a while, and come spring we want to use those tickets.

This is it.  There aren’t a lot of choices.  Putting down an animal is never easy.  But it probably helps if it’s already too late, if their suffering is obvious. In some dispassionate way, I don’t think it would be a big deal to deprive her of continuing a journey that is almost at its end, and may involve a steep uphill slog.  That’s in the abstract.  In reality, I couldn’t see getting her into the car, which often signals trouble but sometimes signals fun, driving her to Dr. Dan’s, where she’ll greet my nephew like a friend and then look at it me like I’ve betrayed her when she remembers it’s a doctor’s office. I couldn’t imagine my husband, lifting a now shaking dog onto the table as Dr. Dan gets the needle ready, and feeling for the rest of our lives that we deprived her of something, even though I’m not exactly sure what.

UPDATE:  1/12/12: We canceled Italy. The good news is I may go to see a show on Saturday, have tickets to see Al Green, Lin-Manual Miranda and POTUS at the Apollo on 1/19, and the better half and I will be taking some time off to celebrate doing New Yorky things.  Maizie seems to be doing better.  We went to the vet just to check in and because she was licking herself a lot.  He said it was a probably just an irritation from lying all day on a hard spot.  He said she looked great for a dog her age, even for one who doesn’t have cushings.  No seizures since the ones that almost caused her executions. We decided not to put our lives on hold and called up a bunch of kennels.  We found that some wanted to put her in a “special care” doggy nursing home where she would be tended to way more than she would ever want.   We now have two potential reasonably priced places that we think will work and will check both of them out.  Maizie will definitely do a test run of two days to make sure she can tolerate the boarding.

Dexter — Season 7, Episode 1 — Can O’ Worms

Warning: If you still haven’t seen the Dexter Season 6  finale, go hide someplace because spoilers are all over.

(Update:  This posts still gets regular visits, especially from outside the US where Dexter Season 7 may not have started. So to clarify for those for whom English is not a first language — this was written in December 2011 and is a parody NOT a review of the Season 7 premiere, any resemblance between the real  Season 7 premiere and this parody is purely coincidental.

For those of us who are watching the show, now that Season 7 is nearly done, what do you of my proposals?  There is a blonde in Dexter’s life, not Lumen, but also a killer.  LaGuerta is making a connection going back to the Ice Truck Killer.  Deb is still dealing with unresolved feelings toward Dex. Dex did figure out Louis’ role — although the series really copped out, making him out to be simple asshole and not a brilliant deductive sociopath.

I’m opening up comments again on this one, so have at it.)

What a disappointing mess, season 6 was.  They started off with a serial killer whose nickname was lifted from Thomas Harris novel, and if that wasn’t derivative enough, they moved from there to a plodding religiously-maniacal duo, whose big secret was obvious by the third episode to everyone who had ever seen The Sixth Sense, or Psycho or a dozen or so other movies.  They turned poor Quinn, into the most incompetent cop in Miami.  Remember when he was “the fucking witness whisperer,” or the only one since Doakes to see through Dexter’s facade? He might have been a little dirty, but he wasn’t stupid.

But those weren’t the worst offenses. They transformed our “neat monster” into a sloppy one, and managed to insult the intelligence of their viewers by ruining the once witty voiceovers that used to give us a glimpse into Dexter’s singular point of view.  Dahmerland, anybody? What we got in Season 6 were instant recaps for viewers who may have gotten up for a beer, or to channel surf because the pace was so slow.

And as for what they did to poor, Deb, I can only say oy vey.  Instead of picking up where Season 5 left off, with the hint that even if Deb didn’t go “behind the curtain” she was at least harboring a suspicion,  season 6 started with Deb as oblivious as ever.  And while Quinn, once upon a time, had had a photo of Dex and Lumen throwing black plastic bags off the Slice of Life, that too was never mentioned.

Instead Deb and Quinn break up. Quinn goes into an alcohol fueled bimbo-binge and Deb goes to therapy.  Therapy had possibilities.  Deb might have begun to put the pieces together, dreaming about the conversation between the ITK and Dexter that happened when she was asleep on the table, and suddenly all the clues could have crashed into her consciousness and that “Oh my God!” we heard in the season previews would have made sense.  Instead the world’s worst therapist helps her come to the realization that she is (gasp) in love with her (adopted) brother.  While the best Dexter parodies had long ago glommed onto the uncomfortable closeness of the two, it worked much better as an implied piece of Deb’s baggage.  Now, it’s just something that will have to be dealt with and can’t end well.   If we are now supposed to believe that Deb’s rationale for not turning in her brother will be that she is now too besotted by him, I will kill my television.  They’ve already worked hard enough at getting her to accept life’s gray areas, and besides adopted or biological, ick. They were raised together, in Deb’s case since birth.  It’s still Jerry Springer territory.

So the question is, assuming they fire the writers and/or pay anything to get Melissa Rosenberg back, how can they dig their way out of this mess?  Starting the season off with Quinn taking a shower and waking up a sleeping Deb in their apartment, and then having her tell him about this crazy dream she had, is one possibility, but not a good one.  Which brings me to my idea for Season 7, Episode 1 — Can o’ Worms.

No, hastily written screenplay, just a few ideas, but if Michael C. Hall or any of the rest of the team want to get in touch with me . . .

Scene I –Deb barges into an in progress therapy session to tell Dr F-wad that she is fired (because in Miami Metro lieutenants can do that) and then goes on to rant about implanting ideas into people’s heads and being a “fucking lame-brained idiot.”

The nervous patrol officer patient (Gretchen Moll sporting her Life 0n Mars blonde wig) interrupts, “Wait a second, are you telling me I don’t want to fuck my son?”

In the hallway, LaGuerta stops Deb.
LaGuerta: Congratulations again, Lt. Morgan on closing the Doomsday case.
Deb: Thanks.
LaGuerta: It was pretty lucky that Travis decided to commit suicide in the church. Reminds me of the Ice-Truck-Killer.
Deb: Huh?
LaGuerta: He also killed himself when it looked like we were closing in.
Deb: Yeah, sometimes things work out.
LaGuerta; You seem more focused, Debra. I’m glad you took our heart to heart seriously. It’s all about Miami Metro.  What’s good for the job….
Deb: (Phone rings. She answers) Yeah, I’ll be right there. Call my brother. (To LaGuerta,) Got to go.

Crime scene — there’s a homicide somehow involving a can of worms, and Miami Metro is doing their usual stellar job with that.

Fade out.  The words: “Ten Days Ago” appear on the screen. Then there’s a flashback of Deb running from the scene that ended Season 6.   Dex runs after her.  Misses.  Goes back and stages Travis’ death to look like a suicide. Voice Over about at least giving Deb this one last gift, before disappearing. Dex goes home, asks Jaime to stick around as he may be going away “for a while”. He starts packing a bag and is in the middle of saying good-bye to Harrison when he gets a phone call from Deb. “We need to talk.”  They meet at her place, the beach house.  Maybe there’s a voice over as they chat or something to speed up the action but we get dialogue, mostly a very pissed off Deb, along the lines of:

“So did you kill Doakes or was that pyro-vampira’s work? And can I assume she’s dead at least?”

“Now you’re telling me Quinn wasn’t a fucking idiot and you really did have some bromance with Trinity that got Rita killed, and you killed Trinity, leaving yet another unsolved case for Miami Metro, fuck you very much?”

“And when ex-fucking-actly did you figure out that Travis was part of Doomsday? And why the fuck didn’t you think that was worth sharing?”

“Just how many of my cases have you fucked up?”

Dex: (looking at phone): It’s Jaime. I’ve got to take it.
Deb: (Nods.)
Dex: Yeah? Okay. I’ll be there right there. (Hangs up.)
Deb: (Looks at him, worried)
Dex: I’ve got to go.  Harrison’s fine.
Deb: Then what….
Dex: I’ll explain later.

(Dexter  drives home. No voice over.  Fumbles for the key as Jaime comes to the door.)

Jaime: She just showed up, I didn’t ….
Dexter: It’s okay, I … (He enters and sees Lumen sitting on the couch)
Lumen: Hello, Dexter Morgan.

(Dexter and Lumen stare longingly at each other)

Jamie:  Uh, I uh have to go study for a class. (She leaves).

(Dexter and Lumen embrace. Dexter starts to laugh hysterically. Camera pans to Deb in her car watching.  She sees Lumen and Dex through the venetian blinds.)

Deb: (hits head against steering wheel) Fucking family reunion.

(Next morning, Harrison walking in on a sleeping naked Lumen and Dex.  Lumen offers to make everyone breakfast.  Dex gets a call from Deb, which he decides to ignore.  Lumen finds the ITK hand on top of the fridge and shows Dexter.)

Lumen: What is it?
Dex: A message for me.
Lumen: What’s it mean?
Dex: I don’t know…yet.

(Phone keeps ringing.  Dex picks up.  Deb again. It’s another murder scene, same MO, Can of Worms killer.)

Dex: I’ve got to go.  I’ll call Jaime. Can you stay until . . .
Lumen: I can stay as long as you need me.

(Dex is beaming.  Kisses her, grabs his kit and puts the hand inside, and goes to the crime scene. Later we see him in the lab looking at the lines Louis has drawn on the hand, which Dexter tells us means that whoever sent it had figured out that Dexter had used Geller’s dead hand to plant his fingerprints in the church.  Dexter doesn’t know about the hand and the auction, so he’s figuring it could be anyone who works at Miami Metro who has access to the evidence room.  He suspects Masuka and they have some awkward dialogue.)

(Yadda-yadda-yadda more crap and it’s Dex and Deb just hanging out having a beer.  Lumen is out buying interview clothes for a job or something.)

Dex: Deb, I’m glad we’re ok with this.
Deb: Now that you’ve promised not to fuck up all my major cases, we can pretend it never happened.
Dex: Like that time when you were twelve and I walked in when you were…
Deb: Yeah, just like that.

(Deb then starts being very whiny about her childhood and all the shit she has to deal with what with her brother’s being a fucking serial killer and all, and how her placing him on a pedestal really screwed up her relationships and blah-blah-blah.)

Dex: Deb, why are you telling me all this?
Deb: (Hits him on the shoulder) Even if a could find a shrink who wasn’t a fucking moron, I can’t exactly tell her my entire childhood was a lie, and Harry was ignoring me so he could take you out for ninja assassin training.

Dex: (Voiceover:) It’s a relief knowing that Deb isn’t going to turn me in, but when did she get so needy?

(Scene fades out with Deb continuing to blah-blah-blah while Dexter listens politely.)

(Yadda-yadda and Dex at Miami Metro busy suspecting each co-worker of having sent the hand, sitting in his office with imaginary Harry, trying to deduce it, doing web searches with his new browser installed by Louis, when suddenly Dexter does a face palm, followed by a voiceover in which he puts together all the clues that Louis is up to something, and says something about how he can’t believe how stupid he’s been over the last few months. Really sloppy. It must have something to do with not having sex.)

Scene: Deb and Lumen having coffee by that place on the water where Lumen and Dex used to meet.
Lumen: So are you here to make sure I’m good for your brother?
Deb: I just don’t want to see him get hurt again.  He’s told me. I know you couldn’t handle the uh you know?
Lumen: (smiling, air quotes) ‘Dark passenger.’
Deb: Fuck yeah.
Lumen:  How’s your dating life?
Deb: Huh?
Lumen: You wouldn’t believe some of the losers I’ve met. I’ve thought about it, Deb. God knows. Dexter was best thing that happened to me.  I realize now that Dex is a  …..
Deb: (sotto voce) complete fucking sociopath?
Lumen:  …. a smart, funny guy with a great job and a killer body — no pun intended.  A super dad. Neat. Organized.
Deb: (stares incredulously.)
Lumen: Everybody has baggage.  I can live with his.
Deb:  Are you planning to … join him…
Lumen: Hell no. That’s his thing.  We don’t have to share everything.  I don’t think that’s healthy. I’m going to accept it.
Deb: It’s not going to bother you that you’re home taking care of Harrison, and he’s out ….
Lumen: Doing his ‘thing.’?  His thing saved my life.  Look, Deb.  I get it.  You and Dex are close.  Really close.  I’m not here to hurt your brother.  I’m here to build a life with him, and if that means accepting all his foibles, yeah, I’m in.
Deb: You’re not going to try to change him?
Lumen: I’m not saying I wouldn’t be thrilled if he gave up his hobby.  But then maybe he wouldn’t be Dexter?
(Deb stares at her a few seconds.  Has to answer her phone. )
Deb: I gotta go. Another homicide. Looks like the Can of Worms. That makes three. My brother’s wet dream.

(More crap leading to cliffhanger ending involving Louis, maybe.)

More Fun and Games at the Kindle Store: Indie vs Self-Published – What’s in a name?

Somewhere in cyberspace, Perplexed Reader writes:

“A question on terminology: Is an “Indie” author a self-published author, or an author published through an indie (that is, non-legacy/”Big Six”) publisher?”

Answer: Some people resent the idea that self-published writers have taken the term “indie” which until recently was understood to designate authors published by “independent” (of the Big Six) publishing houses — an historically very well-known (though sometimes notorious) group of folks that included literary lions like DH Lawrence, William Burroughs and the Marquis de Sade.

As the publishing industry became more corporatized and controlled by fewer and fewer people, some independent smaller publishers like Farrar, Strauss and Giroux were sold to bigger publishers, but never completely lost their independent identity. Yet, authors publishing through them, however innovative, would not be considered “independents.”

The term “legacy publisher” used in Perplexed Reader’s query, is a poorly understood neo-logism which according to “indie” author Joe Konrath (whose name must be mentioned by law in any blog related to  indies) was coined by author Barry Eisler. It  means any publisher which uses “outdated” methods and technologies. We should probably take this term out of the equation altogether because its meaning highly debatable, and many established small presses would reject it as being offensive.

I challenge anyone to find the exact origin of using “indie” to describe individuals who publish themselves independently of any publisher.  (And I don’t mean “challenge’ in a bad way. I’d genuinely like to know.)

But it is used, and it’s accepted throughout the digiverse at least, to mean self-published. More importantly, it’s accepted by Amazon. (See Amazon’s Indie Bookstore, etc.). One  could argue that Amazon’s use of the term is pandering to the multitudes who publish on its Kindle Digital Platform and through its print-on-demand company, Create Space.  In any case, “the facts on the ground” for better or worse have been established.

I’m not sure where this leaves people who’ve been published by established small press houses. Today, in addition to big and small publishers being lumped together as “traditional publishing,” the waters are muddied even more by micro-presses set up to publish a very limited number of authors (beginning with the number one), e-book publishers who may use POD for print (and bear few of the risks or expenses of traditional small publishers), and other start up concerns that aren’t traditional “vanity” houses, in that they don’t ask for money up front from authors, but offer neither the services of traditional publishing or the respectability that comes with it. So there’s also the question of who is a publisher? Does it have to do with the size of the list? The services offered? Whether or not there are full time editors? Whether or not they can actually do print runs and/or get copies of books onto store shelves?

Often the only thing these tiny newcomers and retooled vanities offer writers is a chance to say “I’ve been published,” even though they might have done better self-publishing, and are unlikely to impress anyone, especially literary agents.

Vantage Publishers, probably the most infamous old-time vanity house, known for their tombstone newspaper ads offering titles ripe for parody, has more recently retooled itself as a “self-publishing” concern, although it still charges tons for its publishing packages. Historically, the vanities never called themselves vanities, at least not in public.  They used the euphemism “subsidy.”

Meantime, because of the taint of self-publishing, firms like PublishAmerica have been able to con the vulnerable and desperate by insisting that they are a “traditional publisher” because they don’t charge writers upfront fees, and allegedly don’t charge to publish. They accept anything, don’t edit or proofread (unless you pay them), do incompetent formatting (and then charge for corrections), and they don’t actually get their books into stores or reviewed. They do print books and publish e-books for which they charge higher than standard prices. They get writers to contract to buy their overpriced books at a “discount”prior to print runs with the understanding that the writers will act as their own marketers and sell them to stores.  Of course stores don’t overpriced, badly formatted, unedited books written by unknowns.   PublishAmerica also holds on to the book rights,  so authors are stuck even after they realize they’ve been conned.

Nowadays, most of the respectable and established independent publishers are swamped by manuscripts, and extremely unlikely to look at unsolicited work. If I was an author who through hard work and development of craft had had work accepted by one of those august houses, I’d probably be outraged that the good name of “indie” has been taken by anyone who can load a “book” onto the KDP.  On the other hand, some of these houses have become risk-averse in these tough and uncertain times and are both dropping their mid-listers and rarely taking on newcomers, making self-publishing an attractive option for many.

On the Kindle forums, the folks who are most vehemently against what they term “vanity-writers,” “self-uploaders” or “scribblers” lump everyone in one boat. Those discerning readers aren’t buying into the “indie” designation even if Amazon and a zillion blogs are. They don’t really believe that anyone is self-publishing by choice, or that anything good can come from allowing anyone to publish. “Indie” is certainly a much nicer term than “driveler.”

Meantime, the writers themselves are often the first to shout, “I’m different! It’s a reprint of a previously published work!” or “I was this close to getting a deal.” or  “Look at my sales numbers.” or they just babble something about Amanda Hocking. But whether you are an octogenarian self-publishing your memoirs of WWII, or a romance fan loading up years of secret attempts onto the Kindle Digital Platform, or a previously published legit author, or anything in-between,  calling yourself an “indie” beats the alternatives.

So, my dear Perplexed Reader, the short answer to your question would be, independent authors published by established small presses may need to clarify their status. to the understandably perplexed,  but they are still independent. However, the term “indie author” will be understood by many to be a synonym of “self-published.”

Dexter: Richochet Rabbit — From Bad to Meh

What a dismal season it’s been! First, a Fight Club/Sixth Sense motif that anyone who wasn’t high should have seen coming by the third episode.

The sudden emergence of Travis as the sole big bad, able to persuade a fanatically religious couple to go forth and mass murder through the powers of the internets, was a continuation of a journey into the unbelievable. Travis’ “transformation” makes no sense based on the arguments we’ve seen him have with “the professor” throughout the season. Remember, his “waking up” in the hotel with the “writing on the wall”? He was startled. He didn’t leave himself chained up knowing Dexter would find him. He did it because he didn’t know what he was doing. So why does he suddenly know that the Professor is dead and that it’s all him? Why is this guy who is hardly able to speak to anyone, suddenly able to command others? It makes no more sense than anything else that’s occurred in the last 10 episodes.

The best thing about the season was Mos’ portrayal of Brother Sam. Mos’ off-beat line readings and acting chops forced Michael C. Hall to bring in his A-game. Brother Sam’s death is something from which the series hasn’t yet recovered.

The worst thing has been the dumming down of Dexter himself. In prior seasons, he’s not only been ahead of the slow-thinking Miami Metro squad, he’s been ahead of the viewers as well. This season, he was sloppy from his first kill — the double homicide of the medics. It was Buffy-like theatrics that made no sense. While two vamps dispatched in the Sunnydale cemetery would never be missed, the disappearance of an ambulance and its crew in Florida would cause some kind of investigation, if not a mass panic.

It even looked like there might be a threat or two close to home to keep Dex on his toes — Quinn still had those pictures of Lumen and Dexter throwing black plastic bags off a boat in the middle of the night, and the new detective appeared at first to be smart enough to be a threat to Dex’s extra-curricular activities. But the new recruit has hardly been seen, and Quinn has been in a drunken stupor for weeks, part of a different show, a comedy about Quinn and Batista the pot-smoking, stripper loving hound-dog cut-ups of homicide who due to the romantic tension of their bromance occasionally wind up punching each other out.

Also Louis is an idiot. That’s not completely implausible as he’s a geeky genius and those types sometimes are idiots. Even if he suspects that Dex is the Bay Harbor Butcher, which would explain his awe of the mild-mannered blood spatter expert/superdad, he also knows via the newspapers that Dexter’s wife was killed by a serial killer, and his sister held captive by one. Wouldn’t it occur to him that Dex might not think his game was the coolest thing ever?

The most interesting development is Dex’s statement that maybe Harry “made” him that way and he wasn’t a natural born serial killer. Dexter’s journey through every season has consistently involved his slow realization that he is more than Harry thought he was. Dexter of season one, would not have cared very much if all of Miami got gassed. He wouldn’t have been desperate to stop Travis as though he was some kind of superhero, and he certainly wouldn’t have called 911.

Brother Sam like him, was raised to kill, and did so, until he stopped and chose another path. Dexter thought he could save Travis. He hasn’t yet become aware that the only one he can save is himself, but that might be the writer’s end game, our hero’s recognition that not only was Harry a manipulative SOB, but that we all have to kill our fathers (symbolically) and choose our own destinies.

The problem is that the story can’t only be in service to its conclusion. The journey itself has to make sense, have some kind of internal consistency and logic. This season has been sloppy in a way that our “neat monster” would have found appalling. He, after all, has standards.


“I object, your honor! This trial is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”

—  Fielding Melish, Bananas

In an age when the “self” may have infinite online iterations and an “award winning” 16-year old novelist  can unapologetically admit to “mixing and matching” by mostly taking the words of a less well-known writer, and still get nominated for a prestigious literary prize, how do we even begin to define “fake”?

Millions of viewers tune in for the wedding a woman famous for nothing.  The marriage is over in 72 days, and it’s possible the bridegroom wasn’t in on the joke, yet the celebutante’s ratings and brand do not appear to have suffered.

Still, some fakes are roundly condemned. In 2006, Kaavya Viswanathan wrote How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. Viswananthan got a major book deal while a sophomore at Harvard.  The novel came out, and so did the accusations that she had stolen chunks from another author’s series.  Viswanthan claimed it was unintentional. When the extent of her cribbing made her excuses unlikely, she blamed her photographic memory, saying she must have “internalized” the other texts.  Her publisher didn’t see it that way and canceled her contract.

Fitzgerald aside, second acts exist in America., Kaavya went on to Georgetown Law School just like former “journalist” Steven Glass who had been famously fired from The New Republic for passing off fiction as journalism.

There are many infamous cases of straight out plagiarism and other literary fakery over the last ten years —  “fake” memoirs like A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.  Frey is best known for an oft parodied episode of getting reamed out  by an enraged Oprah.  There’s Margaret B. Jones, who published a memoir of gang life in South-Central, in which she claimed to have been a part-Native American foster child in South Central.  She turned out to be a white surbanite with the last name of Seltzer, who briefly went to a public high school.

Perhaps the condemnation of Frey, Viswanathan, and Jones/Seltzer has to do with their “success” at fooling the self-important.  You don’t mess around with Oprah, The New York Times, and big publishers.

I’ll admit to having sympathy for Laura Albert who wrote novels under the name JT LeRoy and even had a relative make public appearances as this persona.  She was convicted of fraud for signing legal papers using her pseudonym.  While she never claimed that her books were non-fiction, she gave her alter ego a backstory suspiciously similar to that of her characters — a childhood of abuse and neglect, sexual identity issues, prostitution, etc.  As Birdie Coonan in All About Eve might have said “What a story. Everything but the blood hounds snapping at her rear end.

Readers who “believed” in JT LeRoy were very upset to find out that the “author” didn’t exist.  Yet, how does that change their relationship to “his” fiction?  In an interview with The Paris Review, Albert explained the origin of the JT LeRoy persona.  In her version, LeRoy was not invented to fool readers or sell books, but to protect the psyche of a writer who was filtering some difficult material, which in fact came from her own past.

Do we forgive Albert because the writing stands on its own and the motives, at least in the beginning, did not appear to be monetary ones?  Or do we condemn her because readers grew emotionally invested in an “author” who was in fact a creation?

Sometimes it’s difficult to spot a motive for fraud. Over the past couple of weeks,  The Hacker Hunter has become the talk of the town on Kindle related blogs.  This is a techno-thriller/spy novel, self-published in October that amassed 350 favorable reviews.  The problem was that none of them were real.  The “tells” for fake were abundant, and the numbers impossible. Even Amanda Hocking, the Queen of Kindle doesn’t have anywhere near that many reviews on a single book.  Readers complained and almost all the reviews on Amazon US were pulled.  As of this writing, they are still up in the UK. The book itself wasn’t just “bad” in a Jacqueline Susann kind-of-way, it was the Springtime for Hitler of books.

Fake reviewers are reportedly paid $10 a pop and the review mills may be paid twice that for setting them up more. That means the author of Hacker could have spent $7k on the fakes. Did he really think this would lead to big sales?  A movie deal? Why not just hire a ghostwriter?  Or at least a proofreader?  Why risk one’s own reputation and maybe even one’s business?

Pondering motives brings me to the curious case of QR Markham, aka Quentin Rowan, whose thriller Assassin of Secrets was published in November by Little Brown (the people who brought you Kaavya Viswanathan).  Secrets was getting rave reviews and all kinds of buzz.  Within two weeks of publication, readers had noticed the plagiarized passages from a number of other books, and Rowan’s entire oeuvre turned out to have involved a lot of heavy, unattributed borrowing. When caught, Rowan admitted the fraud, even though some bloggers offered a way out, imagining it could have been a brilliant postmodern hoax.

Rowan sat down for a virtual (honest) conversation with a blogger about his “career”. He  suggested that it was having a poem anthologized in Best American Poetry when he was nineteen years old that set him on his wayward path.  He thought he was “destined” to be a great writer, and when he started writing prose, he just found other people’s words more “clever” than his own and started to “swipe” them.  He compares this to other addictive or obsessive behavior that is not rational.  There’s something awfully self-pitying about those remarks.  “Poor me, if only I hadn’t been ruined by early success and had applied myself to my craft.  I could have been somebody.  I could have been a contender.” Or as Jane Austen’s Lady Catherine put it, regarding music, “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”

Nietzsche said, “The thought of suicide is a powerful solace: by means of it one gets through many a bad night.” Another cure for insomnia is schadenfreude.  Rowan is an investor in a bookstore, Spoonbill and Sugartown in Williamsburg. I blame Williamsburg itself for sealing his destiny.  I used to live there once before it became a playground for trustifarians and the tragically hip.

This is a neighborhood about which a young musician recently told me, “It’s not enough to be an artist or a musician, you have to be the right kind.”

Back in the 80’s, when my friends in the East Village referred to Williamsburg as a suburb, when taxi drivers wouldn’t take me there, when it was still a real place, there were writers and artists even then, but they weren’t there because it was a “scene.”  They were there because it was affordable. Nowadays, I feel too old, too ugly and too poor to even get off the train at Bedford Avenue, much less set foot in its most chichi of bookstores.

Rowan wasn’t actually trying to be a writer.  He was trying to be “the right kind“, the “kind” who gets published in the right places, and owns the coolest shop on the coolest block, in the coolest neighborhood, of  the greatest great city in the world — even though it’s a world of appearances that are no more real than shadows cast on the wall of a cave.